Saturday, May 30, 2015

Goodbye

In the middle of the night I tear off the covers and shoot out of my bed.  Some nights to frantically turn on lamps and stumble to the middle of the room, sometimes mumbling, other times screaming and crying.  I'm looking for him.  In the dream almost every night, we've forgotten him, left him somewhere.  Eventually I come to and realize the nightmare isn't real.  I climb back into bed.  It was just a bad dream, now go back to sleep.  And by now I know better, I know this fear that lies dormant and then makes its way out in my subconscious.  Who will fight for him, will he be discarded, forgotten, or my worst fear, unprotected?
The dream isn't real but the fear is.  So turn over and go back to sleep, everything is okay I tell myself over and over, oh how I want everything to just be okay.



That man of mine, I wish I could've known over a decade ago when he shook my hand for the first time that one day, years later he would take my hand and carry this torch.  A burning flame for the defenseless and hopeless, the ones who suffer in silence.  A need so vast, so great that we don't even know where to begin.  Hands that picked me up when a broken heart collapses strength.  He's made of steel, I'm convinced.  He has to be.  He was made for this moment when our yes is a release and that very moment of letting go takes you to your knees.  Hearts weren't made for bringing in babies and then letting them go when they're not ready, when what's highest and best was never the priority for the authoritative mouthpieces making these decisions.

He tells me how he hears me crying myself to sleep at night, waking up constantly because sleep is so light when you're on the brink of letting go.  You wake up weeping because at the earliest of consciousness you remember what's coming.  And watching that sweet baby boy on the monitor upstairs, he doesn't know what's coming.  And those precious girls of mine sleeping under rose twinkle lights on floral sheets, they don't truly realize it either.  We can make transition plans and process heavily the details of what's coming but really, there's no preparation possible to convey to your heart what's about to happen.  For us it goes beyond a goodbye, that part of the process we signed up for.  It's not just the fact that he's leaving.  More than that, it reaches into placements, environments that yield deep grief.  And although I don't digest the lie, I see it dangled in front of me, everything we've worked for and done.  The path he journeyed on into this world and how it was completely shifted that winter's day when we brought him into our family.  By the Lord's goodness, a course drastically altered and a new one illuminated.

Has it all been for nothing?

I know this answer, Truth gives me the explanation.  No, of course not.  But tell that to the grief and the what ifs waiting in the shadows, ready with scenarios of how this plays out.

Weeping at stoplights and carpool lines doesn't get you anywhere and it won't keep that white state department car from coming down the hill.  The heart doesn't comprehend and the tears flow anyways with a constant nausea that can't be quenched.  You're just near sick to your stomach at the sight of it all.  Because that phone kept ringing, meetings, and court hearings with a steady stream of pushback, supervisors and policy trumps all.  And I couldn't handle their job for a second and I dig deep to believe the best in them but it doesn't reconcile in my mind, not today.  Conversations and confrontation on policies, we went down fighting hard and we would do it again in a heartbeat.  Labels on a chart, on my profile, that I'm too involved, a picture painted that I'm crazy because we stood and will always stand upright.
Come on now, bring it on.  Because I can handle the gossip and my name being drug through the mud.  I can handle the conflict and backlash when refusal to follow suit into a cut and pasted solution yields a fight.



But I can't handle slipping back into my comfortable world while he crawls through this battle without me.  I can't handle the reality these babies wake up to before they can say a word and cry for help.  I can't stomach the policy and functions of a system whose imperfections come with a price tag that the innocent pay.  Because babies don't belong in the back of state department cars flying up and down that highway.  They don't belong in that lobby waiting on visitation, maybe mama is coming and maybe she's too broken to take a step towards love.  Sitting on my lap waiting day after day, week after week, for her to come and see who he is and yet she never comes.  How does a mama leave a treasure there waiting and not come?
And they don't belong belong in the back of those other cars, the ones with cigarette smoke pouring out, loud music drowning out their cries, maybe buckled in and maybe not, driven by carelessness and pain into homes and realities so dark.  No twinkle lights, no video baby monitors, and no daily baths.  The violence and neglect funnels them into a system I'm grateful for and at the same time we now fully grasp the brokenness of those trying to clean up the messes they didn't make.  We're dealing with human life here, shifting them with second best decisions because brokenness shackles parents in homes without hope and we function in survival.  And here we sit to watch.

But the end comes whether you're ready or not, no matter how hard you fought and how many bridges you burned to get here.  No matter how many documents signed that make me feel like a liar because there's not one word on those stacks of papers that I can justify, none of it is highest and best and not one word gives me peace.  It's a signature of notification when all I want to do is shred it with my hands and scream.  That paper says today is coming and here we sit.  We have learned when to fight hard before man and we have learned when to weep in silence.  And today we let you go.

Today you left us and it's harder than anything we've ever done.

I closed my eyes and remember so vividly, that winter day.  I will always remember walking out of that hospital with you.  The beauty and brokenness of leaving with a newborn that didn't grow safely in my belly.  Feeling the excitement, fear, and uncertainty of what was to come.  I heard the click as your carseat latched to the base, I leaned in over your tiny face and you opened your eyes for just a minute.  I came in closer and whispered to you I was right there, how I loved you, and that we were going home.

Our first night together, me and you, it was long and rough.  Your body trembled, you struggled to latch onto the bottle, we sat for hours trying to get you to swallow an ounce, maybe two.  How a tight swaddle and a close embrace was the only thing that kept you from screaming and becoming startled from the withdrawals.  Seemingly overnight how sensitive I became to the phrase "drug baby", how that term is used harmlessly but just as any label goes, it carries sadness and stigma.

You're not a stigma, you're His perfect workmanship, created for destiny.



You've been given a thousand kisses since the day we found you and you found us.  You've been held, rocked, and prayed over, sung to on soccer fields and swept away by little hands that just couldn't get enough of you.  You've listened to worship and felt tears over you, held in a hospital room when your body endured sickness you didn't ask for.  You've been the product of community of family and friends who adore you and welcomed you in.  Everyone knows your name and you're loved beyond measure.  I'm overwhelmed with gratitude we were the ones who have had the esteemed honor and privilege of the every day, mundane routines of life with you.

I loved tiptoeing into your nursery each morning, singing to you until you stirred and opened your eyes.  I would wait for you and you would find my eyes.  Every diaper change, every feeding, doctor's appointment, and parent visit, an extension of love and sacrifice because you're worth it, this deep new love.
And we knew there would be a price to pay for this love, this relentless pursuit of your heart and your needs.  We knew today would come and it came fast.  The day I said, we said, and most people say, they just could never do because we just couldn't give them back.  The day that has come so quickly that we went through training for, were fingerprinted for, sat in the NICU for.  The unthinkable logistics of moving an infant, a life, from your care into someone else's, the unknown.



Today we said goodbye.  Those girls of yours, their hearts only needed a lasting image of you in mama's arms.  So they drank you in deep and said goodbye, they didn't want to let go.  Nothing in their hearts says it's highest and best, they don't understand...I'll be honest I'm not too far ahead of them.  They kissed you until your cheeks were wet with love, they hugged you hard and spoke life over you.  We drew you in close and waited.  Not too much longer did that state department car came down the hill.   We placed you in the car seat and watched you look around.  I leaned in over you and whispered to you I am here, I'm always going to be here.  Whether you're one, five or twenty.  I'll find you and you can come find me.  We watched you pull away until we couldn't see that car anymore.  Weakness and grief poured out in a doorway because legs can't stand and lungs can't breathe when babies leave and everything in you says right here with me is where he belongs.





Because we can't see you tonight at the dinner table and tomorrow morning we can't sing to you.  And I can't carry out the summer plans I made for you and you won't watch these little dancers on stage only to receive their applause and kisses afterwards.  Because in our home, you're the star, the king and you're seen and heard.  Little one, your Heavenly Father sees you.  And you are not a case number, a line up on a court docket.  You're not a statistic or a percentage on a chart somewhere.  You're my baby, you're our baby and you always will be.  While you were in her womb He knit you together perfectly and His shield about you brought the protection and provision you so desperately needed.  He saw you, He sees you today and He will always see you.

He is your good when everything around you is bad.



You are His Beloved and His delight.
You are an heir to the throne, the prince and son of the Most High King.
You are a blueprint, a perfectly stitched tapestry of the Maker whose plans for you are good.
You are marked with purpose and destiny, the calling on your life is great.
You will go and do far greater works than you'll ever ask or imagine.


I want to keep track of you, I want to follow you.  I want to develop the relationships necessary to keep that thread intact into your world.  And one day that thread may fade and even break.  One day I may lose you completely.
But my Brown Bear, He goes with you and He goes before you.  His nearness to you is your good, He will never leave you.  And your mama, I'll always be here.  And that house full of girls, on that winter day months ago, the ones who dropped backpacks and took off running into the house because they knew you were here...those little girls will always love you and you have and will change them forever.  And your daddy, that man whose voice made you light up and you melted into his arms, he will always be safe and ready to pick up a sword and carry a torch for you.





So tonight, our Brown Bear, we will wait on the Comforter for the nearness and healing only the Lord can bring.  Our greatest weakness and sadness for His glory, beyond desperate for His rescue.  Tonight I will beg for new mercies and joy in the morning because tomorrow I will remember what happened today.
Today we learned you are worth it, the cost is worth it, and one day to come, another little life will be worth it.  We will step back into our armor and wade back into these dark waters in this war I can't hardly bare to think about.  But not today and not tomorrow.  We said goodbye and a place in our family is empty, we need Him to come like He promises to do and fill it back up again.



O Lord, come and lift our heads and go before this baby like You promise You will do.  Raise him up to be a warrior, a torch carrier like his daddy, a bold proclaimer of who you are and what you've done.  Mark his life with identity so deeply rooted in Truth that come what may, he stands firm and remains upright before his King.  Love him more than we could ever comprehend and be with him because we can't.  Lord, be the vine that forever connects You to his heart because righteousness and holiness were the thing contended for.  Bring back some thirty, sixty, hundred fold every word spoken over him.  Grow that seed something strong and mighty, a little boy who will always hear Your whispers and one day, a man who fearlessly makes known Your name.

We love you Brown Bear and we always will.

O Lord you are the shield about me,
You're the glory and the lifter of my head.
Psalm 3:3

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Saying Goodbye, Someday

I remember that afternoon.  I always will.  I could hear their laughter as they played outside while I leaned up against the wall and wept, hearing of change coming, coming fast whether I'm ready for it or not.  He just kept talking about policy, how it was out of his hands, how not to worry, how I will always be a part of his life.  You focus on standing up and listening, you try to think of questions while your phone buzzes about soccer schedules, teacher luncheons and field trips.  Just breathe in and out and listen.  But I can't breathe and I can't stand to listen to another word.  What are you saying, how can this be happening?  I was fine five minutes ago and now you've gone and shaken up everything in me.



That feeling, the same feeling I felt when I heard the word divorce, as my dad left and watching my mama scramble to buffer and protect.  Like the day I heard the word cancer and months later, that precious man of mine walked in the back door and told me my daddy was gone, a funeral is coming.  And when days later in that church cathedral she placed those images on a large screen set to music, my daddy with her kids, his new family.  And you sit there in that pew and you can hardly breathe.  Your tears flow hot and steamy and it hurts to swallow and somehow you think you're not going to survive that moment.  That floor beneath me will surely just swallow me whole because I can't sustain anymore, I just can't.

So when that state department car pulled up, I knew somehow a wave of unknown was coming.  Not the normal monthly meeting when our caseworker comes to our home, usually scheduled but unannounced this time.  For your time and your answers, a stack of paper work and questions, everything documented and recorded.  They inspect your home and check sleeping arrangements.  Policy to see a diaper change and an undressed baby's back, they're looking and checking for all signs of harm.  He begins to exit and then stops in the doorway to say this baby is leaving, not to worry, there will be a transition period.  I ask how long and he says days.  Days.  I don't know where he's going to or how this plays out other than the requirement is to let go.  Change, no, more than that, upheaval is on the horizon.  My mind fumbles to comprehend as to how five days is enough to transition a life.  Information and policy rattled off like making arrangements to pick up furniture or documents, no...we're talking about a life here.  We don't get the download of the process, the time they've spent making this decision.  We just get the end snapshot.  And he walks away and leaves in that white car, and those little ones keep coming and going from the house, asking for snacks, help with homework.  She has softball practice, where's her leotard, what's for dinner.  The tears come quick and steady.

So here we are in this moment that for decades kept me from even lightly thinking about being a foster parent.

Saying goodbye.  

How do you do it, how do you breathe and keep going?  How does a mama, a family, operate and comply with a mandate that opposes the way we were created to love?  How to you give Him your yes day after day only to reach the end and there's no prize, nothing seen or gained for me or my family, at least not on this earth...or so it seems.

Shifted focus comes, we take the backseat because it's not about us.  It's about his precious, little life.  It's about that phone call that changed everything in us forever.  It's about the way he was brought into a family for unconditional love and affection.  A first Christmas to gaze at the lights on the tree and hear carols by the fireplace wrapped securely and safe.  A community who rallied and contended, prayers and declarations into a future unseen by man but promised by the Maker who shielded and protected him in her womb.  A first Easter and many Sundays before where his little heart absorbed worship and heard glimpses of heaven where it's all for His glory.  It's not about us and the pieces we will have to pick up and put back together, because we will walk by his room and see that empty crib and pockets once filled with his coos will be silent because soon he will be gone.

It's not about the night torment when I wake up panicked, begging Chris in desperation to tell me where he is.  His reassurance that he's upstairs asleep, reminding me it's a dream.  It's not about the deepest fears that settled in that he will be forgotten, left behind, hurt, not fought for.




It's about him and what if the sacrifice wasn't there and our brokenness never yielded him the shelter and love he needed?  

He needed us that winter night to say yes when we didn't know his name or where he was.  He needed a family and a love so great it leaves those who extended it heartbroken and shattered, chasing every thought and rabbit trail to keep it captive.  This baby needed us to fight hard for him and demand excellence, to walk into court rooms and offices with boldness, for settling to never be on the table for discussion.

Then the pendulum shifts back so quickly, because in this truth, you look and see this crew of little eyes looking at you, asking why you're crying.  Wanting answers and explanations.  Concrete words they can comprehend but you yourself, nothing in you understands and is still deep in shock and sadness.







It comes back to a love, a love we ourselves don't deserve and can't earn.  A love from the One who is love and sacrificed so we could wake up in the mess of mud and squander, and desperately run back to the house where He waits, He will always wait.  We run up the road and on the porch the Good Father sees us coming and runs to us before we can speak and throws the robe around us, a feast awaits.  What He extends and what He's called us to, a deep love.

And the rescue that came this week, unexpected and impossible change that stopped and changed the course of this baby's life.  A love that challenged and fought hard the policies that blindly blankets these children.  Contending to the Lord for the only breakthrough and favor His faithfulness yields.  The kind of love that stands in a court room and speaks boldly, demanding change and not giving into the fear that we're way in over our heads.  And that paper says we don't have rights and I sign documents I don't agree with and feel the nausea when the truth isn't fully given.  I watch that man of mine, always brave and strong, I watch him fight hard for this baby and stand firm without wavering.





A change in direction this week.  You will let go, but not yet.
If we're in this to never let go, then we're in the wrong place.

From being told it would be days, to learning we will have a little bit more time.  Transition for all and the hope that when it's time to let go soon, and soon will be here before we know it, that this release will feel peaceful only because once again, the Advocate goes before us.



This baby needs fierce love.  A new love that extends a lavished adoration without abandon.  A relentless love that will one day soon feel empty and only the Father will fill it back up because a family is just a vessel and it runs through us hard, and with it taking pieces of us he needs.
Saying goodbye, what does that love even look like other than a pouring out of everything we have left and a release that we weren't created for walking out in our own strength?

And he's one of thousands, and there's more coming and more waiting.



Soon he will leave us and soon, the phone will ring again.  A little life will lie their desperate in a hospital crib unaware of the love and care needed to live.  The need of touch, warmth, embrace, response.  The fragility and brokenness in the waiting.

And we wait too, how long will this hurt when he leaves us?  My heart contends and will choose to believe all I know to be true.  I will not wait in fear, I will believe with everything in me that the Lord sees this precious life and will tuck him under the shelter, the wings of the Most High King.
I have to, I have to believe that Jehovah takes greater care more than I can understand.
I have to believe that every tear, every argument against the system, every time I sat in that lobby waiting for nothing.  Every moment of fear and struggle, sacrifice and unknown waters we waded into was worth it.  It was worth it.

One day coming, we will let go and He will put us back together and He'll carry us, because those girls are only a few steps behind us and they know the cost, the price of this new love, the investment of saying goodbye.  But not today and not this week.

We will soon say goodbye and then we will lay down our swords, we fought well since the day you were born and this week, we fought hard.  We called out the truth and challenged the sheer brokenness in the system.  We called you by name and we watched a community of friends and family rally around you and contend for the impossible.



We will soon say goodbye and will be the saddest yes we've ever offered up to the King who promises to bring the comfort and healing only He can do, that hope and refuge poured out in my own mess and rejection of His Son, because He loved us first and that love is the only thing worth clinging to.



Saying goodbye will come some day, soon, maybe weeks.  But for today, we love you and we will always love you.  And you are worth standing in a thousand court rooms and lobbies.
Little one you are and will always be the apple of His eye, not a court case number or a statistic.
You are loved, His Beloved, and our Brown Bear.

"May the Lord bless you and keep you,
May the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace."
Numbers 6:24-26